There's plenty of time.
That seems to be the prevailing opinion from managers who are dealing with injured ballplayers. Sure, if this was July we might see Randy Johnson or Manny Ramirez making visits to the disabled list, but in mid-March, with the season nearly three weeks away, why rush things?
For Johnson, who expects to win his 300th game with the San Francisco Giants this season, he's going to miss his Wednesday start against the Cubs with soreness in his biceps. The team views skipping Johnson's start as precautionary, or as manager Bruce Bochy noted, "normal spring training stuff." Fantasy owners are making Johnson the No. 45 starting pitcher off the draft board in ESPN leagues, ahead of Aaron Harang and Brett Myers, among others who also tend to strike hitters out. Of course, none of them will be 46 years old in September.
Meanwhile, it's hard to believe, but Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez is in the news again! No, it's not a contract issue this time, but a hamstring, one which will cause him to miss at least the next week. Ramirez hurt the hamstring a week ago, then aggravated the injury in Sunday's game. The Dodgers have no reason to rush Ramirez back to the lineup, since the guy could hibernate for a month, fall out of bed and still rake. Thus there's really no reason for fantasy owners to worry, either. There's also no reason for you to be even more tempted to draft the team's top reserve outfielder, Juan Pierre, though it is likely Ramirez will need some downtime during the season as well.
• An injury that should affect fantasy drafts, however, is the one to Marlins closer Matt Lindstrom, suffered in Sunday's World Baseball Classic game. An MRI on Monday showed Lindstrom has a strained right rotator cuff, and he's been advised to avoid throwing a baseball for at least a week to 10 days. The Marlins can't be pleased that their closer apparently was hurt before he entered Sunday's game, and participating in a non-team event. He could be lost to the team in April, which will certainly create more debate about the timing of the WBC in the future. Leo Nunez appears next in line for saves, and we'll keep you updated as to whether or not Lindstrom will be able to throw by April.
• I know it seems like it, but not everyone in baseball is injured right now. Still, this might seem like really bad news: The Orioles will start the season with Matt Wieters in the minors. Team president Andy MacPhail confirmed this Monday to the Baltimore Sun, but really folks, this is not a surprise at all. Fantasy owners knew this was coming. As MacPhail points out, even if Wieters looks ready, he still has a mere 200 at-bats in Double-A. The catcher will report to Triple-A Norfolk for a month or so, but don't be too scared about drafting him. Even in five months, he can still be a top-10 fantasy catcher. This news shouldn't send starting backstop Gregg Zaun's stock rising in fantasy drafts, either.
• OK, after a brief respite, back to injury news! Seattle Mariners lefty Erik Bedard pitched an inning Monday and pronounced his sore butt to be just fine. Mariners Nation can rest easy. "Just warming up I knew I was fine," Bedard said. Bedard has been a pain in the, well, butt for fantasy owners, but few pitchers have 200-K upside like he does.
• Good news from Yankees camp, as the MRI on second baseman Robinson Cano's right shoulder showed no damage, and pitcher Damaso Marte got a clean bill of health on his upper chest and left shoulder area. Cano is a top-10 second baseman in drafts and Marte might be next in line for saves should something befall closer Mariano Rivera, so the team obviously doesn't need them to join Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list. By the way, fantasy owners who keep asking when A-Rod will get DL eligibility: When the Yankees make the official move, then we will, and that's when fantasy owners can.
• Fantasy owners might not want to draft any Washington Nationals pitchers except closer Joel Hanrahan, but take a look at what 22-year-old right-hander Jordan Zimmermann has been doing lately. Zimmermann allowed two hits over four scoreless innings Monday, and hasn't allowed an earned run in 12 1/3 innings. The Nationals are likely to give the kid a rotation spot, and while he probably doesn't warrant attention in 10-team leagues, Zimmerman does have a bright future. This could be a case where spring stats do matter.
• Fantasy owners don't seem too excited in drafting Conor Jackson, despite a decent all-around game that includes a .287 career batting average and double-digit stolen bases in 2008. Jackson told the Arizona Republic he doesn't intend to alter his approach at the plate to hit for more power. That's not really what fantasy owners want to read.
• Monday was a big day for the Houston Astros. Not only did they seem to solve a brutal catching situation by signing Ivan Rodriguez to a one-year deal, but the Houston Chronicle reported the team has narrowed its final choices to pitch to Pudge every fifth day to ... drum roll please ... Jose Capellan and Russ Ortiz. Man, I can't wait to see how this ends up! Capellan was once a top Braves relief prospect, but when they dealt him away for nothing, it gave me and many others the impression he just wasn't that good. Ortiz, despite a 20-win season to his credit, hasn't done much well the past four seasons. Rodriguez might be a future Hall of Famer, but the back end of the Houston rotation isn't near the same level.
• Speaking of fifth starters, the Dodgers haven't settled on their final starter, and now it appears the conversation will continue sans Jason Schmidt, who continues to deal with repercussions of his ailing shoulder. Schmidt has been pitching, but not recovering quickly. The implication is that he could be part of the rotation at some point but won't be ready in early April. For now, the Dodgers don't have an obvious choice for the final rotation spot, with Eric Milton, Eric Stults, Claudio Vargas and Shawn Estes in the mix. Don't be shocked if Pedro Martinez rumors persist in Los Angeles.
• Tuesday shapes up as a big day in baseball, with the USA team aiming to avoid elimination against Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, but also Phillies ace Cole Hamels will have his left elbow checked out in Philadelphia. It could be nothing, or it could be a really big deal for the world champs and fantasy owners.